As in other years, Asian Legal Business continues its annual tradition of picking Asia’s standout lawyers from offshore law firms. These are legal professionals who have not only met but also exceeded client expectations.
To compile this list, ALB surveyed clients of offshore law firms, asking them to recommend lawyers who stood out not only for their ability to provide sound advice, but also their commitment to client service.
The names below are in alphabetical order.
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Conyers Dill & Pearman
Client feedback: “A genuine guy, technically able. He is precise when it comes to the law, and honest when he is not certain.”
Christopher Bickley is a partner and head of the Hong Kong office at Conyers Dill & Pearman. He joined the firm in 1994 and has spent his entire career with the firm, something he describes as “very unusual these days.”
The Tottenham Hotspur football club fan finds it rewarding to see lawyers and other professionals developing their careers and becoming successful at the firm. Originally from Bermuda, Bickley saw it as a natural step to specialize in offshore jurisdictions, especially given his focus on company law.
“Keeping up to date with the changing legal landscape can be difficult. Like with many challenges, I find the best way to meet them is to take it one day at a time,” says BickleyBack to top
Client feedback: “A pleasure to work with. She is efficient, commercial-minded and proactive. We are happy to know that our offshore legal work is in good hands.”
Fiona Chan is a partner in the corporate department of Appleby’s Hong Kong office.
Chan advices on a full spectrum of banking and finance, non-contentious insurance, technology and innovation, private client and trust matters relating to the laws of Bermuda, British Virgin Islands and Cayman Islands. She is also a member of Appleby´s Global Technology & Innovation Group.
She first came across the various aspects of offshore work during her years working in a Magic Circle firm. However, she felt that offshore law was a very narrow field and didn’t think about a career in offshore law at the time.
But after her return to Asia, the frequent use of corporate vehicles that exist under the laws of offshore jurisdictions and their increasing sophistication started to fascinate Chan. “Instead of seeing offshore work as restrictive, I found that I could focus on a much broader and diverse range of practices from finance, corporate, insurance to private client, trust and technology,” she says.
In fact, Chan says it revived her passion for law when she could apply her onshore experience to tackle challenges in offshore work, which she says made her a stronger lawyer all around.
This has been helpful as she often participates in discussions among Appleby’s global offices. “Although we are able to provide offshore legal advice out of our Hong Kong office, we maintain a close relationship with our global network in the formulation of strategies and sharing of information,” she explains.
A strong advocate for women in law, Chan also devotes time to worthy groups: “I am involved in a number of professional networks promoting various women’s causes, such as Women in Law Hong Kong, as well as leading Appleby’s female leaders networking events.”Back to top
Client feedback: “Whenever I need to draw on her expertise, I can email her and she will go the extra mile to be responsive. I’ve never seen another offshore lawyer so willing to go that extra mile.”
Maggie Kwok is a partner in Harneys’ Hong Kong office.
In her role, she finds the most challenging aspect is having to juggle a large portfolio of clients and matters along with family duties. But Kwok says the key to multi-task effectively is to possess good organisational skills. That trait is undoubtedly helpful in the current legal market landscape. “Our world is evolving at an unprecedented rate. We have been witnessing the birth of new disciplines and roles in our profession which were unheard of a decade ago,” she says.
And this means new opportunities for legal professionals everywhere. Kwok advices those still green in the field to see them as such.
“Just because you find yourself having a lukewarm attitude towards whatever law you are practising or role you are in this very moment does not necessarily translate to the need to look for something outside the legal profession,” she says.
Instead, Kwok believes the key is to be open minded and ready to explore. “Be true to yourself and don’t let the herd instinct take charge. Allow yourself a talent review from time to time. Try to find out where your passion lies and run with it,” she says.
Kwok works closely and extensively with hedge fund and private equity managers, family offices, banks, fund administrators, custodians and investors. “To me, there is nothing more important than being able to connect with clients and understanding what their needs and goals are with a view to providing them with solutions within the legal framework,” she says.
“What I do is a people’s job that requires the heart and curiosity to get to know the clients and help them find solutions. This is what I find most rewarding,” Kwok adds.Back to top
Conyers Dill & Pearman
Client feedback: “Great ability in managing client expectations in respect of complicated offshore procedures.”
David Lamb is a partner in the Hong Kong office of Conyers Dill & Pearman. He was drawn to specialize in offshore jurisdictions by “the international nature of the work, the big-ticket transactions, the sheer history and reputation of the firm as well as its collegiate nature.”
Those attractive factors also create challenges in his field.
“I tend towards contentious corporate work which often ends up in court, so the work is challenging or demanding but these are the very same things that make the work interesting. Often there is no ready answer in law so good judgment is paramount,” says Lamb.
His passion for his work also stems from the opportunity it affords him to move the needle. “There is scope for innovation and creativity in corporate structures and often the transactions are award-winning deals,” says Lamb.
“I had the good fortune to structure the first use of the amalgamation or merger provisions in a major public M&A transaction in Bermuda many years ago, and to do the same in the Cayman Islands with the Tongjitang Chinese Medicines take-private in 2009/10 and many deals since which have set the trend.”
He also took the offshore lead in the award-winning global restructuring of Noble Group.
Lamb finds release from his challenging work in physical pursuits. “Sailing retains my sanity, skiing makes me feel alive, croquet is a terrific tactical game and golf is, contrary to what Mark Twain said, a great walk.”Back to top
Client feedback: “She is solution-orientated, coupled with excellent, wide-ranging technical knowledge.”
Linda Lee is the founding partner of Carey Olsen’s Asia offices. She was approached by the firm to do this in 2015, and became fascinated by what offshore jurisdictions could potentially offer the many business deals in the region. “I’ve always enjoyed the structuring side of deals since my days working in private equity. In Asia, offshore solutions are often part of the deals we are working on. Having been an M&A partner with Allen & Overy in Singapore and Hong Kong, it was an interesting progression to explore offshore practice,” says Lee.
She described the move as “too good an opportunity to miss.” Carey Olsen now has “a great network”, which includes a rapidly growing Bermuda practice as well as the BVI, Cayman, Jersey and Guernsey practices.
She credits her team and clients as great support in the highly competitive market. “The offshore legal market is at least, if not more, competitive than the onshore legal market in terms of winning work and fees and attracting the best talent. Building strong local relationships in Asia is crucial which is something I have spent a lot of time doing.”
Lee has amassed wide ranging experience in cross-border M&A, corporate finance and corporate restructuring transactions. And with about two decades of practice, Lee has sound advice for new legal professionals.
“Be prepared to think about your career as a number of stages. Think about career opportunities which are likely to be a springboard to other roles in the future or which are likely to open you to more options,” says Lee.Back to top
Client feedback: “He and his team are very good at coming up with innovative solutions to achieve results where needed. You don't see this from most other lawyers.”
Ian Mann is Harneys’ Asia managing partner and the long-term head of its litigation and restructuring practice group in Hong Kong.
Mann sees offshore as “the last great secret” of the international legal community. “The immense quality of the legal work, in the context of international capital flows that bring millions of people out of poverty every year in the developing world, is truly exhilarating,” says Mann.
For him, the opportunities for business travel to far-flung places and to meet interesting people are second to none; so much so that that he says he would not specialise in anything else. However, the best part of the job for him lies in finding the arguments that will win a piece of litigation. “Winning litigation comes from an innate desire to be better than your competition and to prove your intellect under stressful conditions. There is an incredible adrenalin rush from outsmarting and outmanoeuvring litigation opponents,” says Mann.
Intelligent talent also makes for a double-edged sword. “As a managing partner, one spends a lot of time building consensus through negotiation and listening. Sometimes you have to persuade and advocate, but it must never be done in a heavy-handed way,” says Mann.
He thinks it foolish to not allow others to grow intellectually and spiritually within a firm.
Mann uses physical activity in a similar way, to test his own tenacity. This involves several ultra-marathons recently, including a 200km run in the mountains of Bhutan and a 54km race called the ‘Tortola Torture’, which takes place in the heat and hills of the BVI.
He advises young professionals to show interest and work hard to perfect their understanding, even if it does not yield instant ‘Instagrammable’ results.
“In the old days, we described these attributes as simple ‘professional pride’.”Back to top
Client feedback: “He is extremely approachable with a can-do attitude to providing the advice needed to get transactions over the line.”
Anthony McKenzie is the managing partner of Carey Olsen’s Singapore office and the head of its corporate practice in Asia.
He got his initial exposure to offshore jurisdictions while working in Allen & Overy’s London office as an associate. “It became increasingly clear to me that leading offshore financial centres play a vital role in facilitating the flow and allocation of international capital and were often positioned at the heart of the global and cross border transactions that I was working on,” says McKenzie.
He knew that relocating to offshore jurisdictions could let him work on high-quality international deals for blue chip clients. So, in early 2007, McKenzie packed his bags, left London and joined an offshore law firm in the Cayman Islands.
McKenzie eventually helped launch Carey Olsen’s Cayman office in 2012.
“With Asia emerging as one of the most important markets for offshore services, I jumped at the chance to join our new office in Singapore. I moved there in late 2016 to be closer to key Asian clients and traditional referrers of offshore business in the region such as onshore law firms and financial institutions,” says McKenzie.
A people person, McKenzie finds the client-facing aspects of his work the most interesting. “Business development is now a major focus of my role – I’m responsible for maintaining existing client relationships and creating new ones. I like knowing offshore law but also applying it in a commercial context to the different transactions that I work on,” he says. “We are very excited to discover what the future will bring as we continue to grow in Asia.”Back to top
Client feedback: “She is very responsive, commercial and thorough - we have never had any issues with her service, execution and quality of work.”
Jenny Nip is a partner in the corporate and finance practice group of Campbells’ Hong Kong office. She is also the head of its PRC group and delivers key services for the China practice of the firm.
Her speciality lies in corporate transactions including capital market transactions, mergers and acquisitions, take-private deals and downstream private equity financing and investment deals. “I saw great demand for offshore legal services from the Chinese clients and a lot of room for the offshore practice to grow. I believed there would be many opportunities for me in the offshore arena,” says Nip. “Some of the Chinese clients may not be familiar with the offshore law which is common-law based and may have to struggle a bit when understanding legal advice from the offshore lawyers.”
With her PRC legal background, Nip was able to look into matters from the Chinese clients’ perspective and explain offshore legal issues to Chinese clients in a digestible, easy-to-understand manner. “Sound offshore legal advice is key and inevitable and is always the last piece of the puzzle to be slotted to complement a successful project,” says Nip.
She finds it most rewarding when she can resolve complicated legal issues and projects successfully and gain appreciation from clients. “It is most rewarding when clients have turned to become my lifetime friends,” says Nip.Back to top
Client feedback: “He is responsible and responsive; very smooth and easy to work with. I am happy and comfortable recommending him to my other clients or colleagues as well.”
As the head of Ogier’s finance practice in Asia, Anthony Oakes specialises in banking, capital markets, corporate transactions, structured finance and restructuring.
His decision to specialize in offshore jurisdictions was inspired by change. “For me, going offshore was an enjoyable and interesting change. While using much of the same skill set developed as an onshore lawyer over the years, the work scope and emphasis are different,” says Oakes.
With the high volume of transactions and
rapid pace of the work, Oakes finds that starting the day right is key. “Accordingly, you need to give clients a lot of small pieces of good advice in a short timeframe. I usually aim to start each day with a fairly clean slate, so that we can respond to the overnight and morning emails as quickly as possible,” he says.
Oakes credits the support of his team for helping him achieve his goals.
His interest in dealing with the many goings-on in the region stems from his fascination with all things Chinese.
“I have always been interested in Chinese language, history and culture and have enjoyed a couple of stints at the Beijing Language and Culture University. The first time was back in 1998,” recalls Oakes. He says that China’s rapid growth in the intervening period has been amazing to behold.
Oakes advice to new legal professionals is to be patient and consistent. “It takes a number of years to develop legal knowledge, client handling and delegation skills,” he says.Back to top
Client feedback: “He is pleasant to work with which is important – someone I feel I can reach out to for a chat even if for informal advice.”
Nicholas Plowman is head of Ogier’s investment funds practice in Asia. He first joined Ogier in January 2006, subsequently founding Ogier’s Hong Kong office in February 2007. For him, it was a journey that came full circle.
“I was looking for a change after working as an onshore M&A lawyer at Slaughter and May in London. I also wanted to come back to Hong Kong where I grew up and my family were still living,” says Plowman. “Hong Kong was also an obvious place to establish an offshore legal practice given the opportunity and size of the offshore market in Asia,” he says.
Since then, his’s primary focus has been on building Ogier’s Cayman Islands and British Virgin Islands investment funds and venture capital practice in Asia.
Plowman finds the main challenge in his job is getting the right balance between ensuring he keeps his clients well serviced and happy, whilst not neglecting the management and strategic aspects of his role. “Our primary focus is on producing quality work for our clients and that is where I think I can add the most value. The way we are now administratively set up in Hong Kong from a management perspective gives me the freedom to do that which is great,” says Plowman.
To contact the editorial team, please email ALBEditor@thomsonreuters.com.Back to top